Stinkburger Deluxe

         Apparently the president has called Paul Ryan’s budget plan a “stinkburger” and a “meanwich” – and I’m thinking – how childish. Whatever one thinks about the Ryan plan – surely something more sage should spring from the president’s brain yes? Or is Washington such a joke now that in the immortal words of Hilary Clinton: “What difference does it make?”

          From what I can tell there’s been no “budget” that our federal government has followed in maybe 20 years. Surely thick documents were promulgated called “budgets,” yes. But then with supplemental appropriations, off budget items, lumping Social Security in the pot, and all the legerdemain of the political class in our capital city it seems silly to call it a “budget.” It’s more a “widget” – that imaginary thing that economists use to represent something which doesn’t exist but somehow supposedly has meaning.

        The Federal Reserve Board is printing billions a month – I hear numbers like 40, 60, 80 billion dollars a month being magically created and sent to banks which have no where to put it but into Treasure bills and bond and notes that are almost as fictitious as the Fed money. The “budget” of this nation long ago ceased to be real … but became an imaginary play thing to present to the public with the phrase: “the president’s budget plan …” and then spent willy-nilly as their silly hearts desired. When the actual appropriations are done in 13 blocks – all in a rush at one time – to give agencies money to spend – whenever more is requested it comes forthwith in a rush.

     Not just for the military – which is rightly complained about – but for new buildings, new junkets by politicians and bureaucracies to foreign lands, and often within our own borders. What is $3.9 trillion? Does this number make sense to anyone? The “budget” doesn’t even talk about little things anymore, you know a billion or two – those are rounding errors, or perhaps something that fell to the floor. If a project is slated to be “$1 billion” – then the minute it starts there is no limit – and all of them seem to become 2 and 3 and 4 times as high.

     It was Robert Moses, long time leader of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, who said, “Once the first shovelful is turned, no project is ever stopped.” Perhaps that’s so in our times of imaginary money. In ancient times – and even merely 100 years ago or so – governments actually had to actually have gold or silver to handover to someone to get things done … now they merely electronically zap a number into an account and all is well. I’m not sure that the Ryan plan is “good” or “bad” or does what it purports to do – I haven’t really taken a close look at it – I’m not even sure one can – since it too speaks of “5.1 Trillion cut from federal spending” – and then when some bureaucrat comes to the congressional committee supposedly in charge of the spending hears a horror story – all so readily crafted – then a supplemental appropriation is made or an off budget gift or a move in the fiscal date or a movement of the funds from one year’s budget to the next is done so that there’s ever more money.

        I’m not sure there’s a politician in the land who actually thinks in terms of what is being spent on salaries, or office supplies, or paper, or heat, electric, or really anything that costs money. Now they all seem to speak of “programs” and “policies.” Then too, the budget must include the loan guarantees – which is money guaranteed to be spent at some point in the future – but lost in yesteryears numbers. Entitlements or “mandatory spending” are such a huge amount of the “budget” that supposedly can’t be touched – why congress and the president and even the public have come to believe that there are some things that simply can never be discussed I don’t know.

         Farm price supports, for instance – supposedly they’re slated to be $8 billion a year or so – or $100 billion over a decade – but because no one can really tell what the prices will be – if more money is needed – then presto – more money it shall be. Start a high speed rail charade and say “It’ll cost $1 billion!” – and when that number is reached and the project not done (as they never are) it’s just “give them more money” and some more hundreds of millions are electronically zapped into the accounts of those who spend it. I don’t know that there’s a politician in the land who can be taken seriously anymore.

       Both parties have shown themselves to be inept at actually doing anything but making more spending. The Democrats surely think money is no object – while so many of the Republicans are more into worrying about “values” and “morality” than actual governing. When I look at the contenders for the White House in 2016 that are bandied about I see the usual clods who have been in the running for a decade – not a one of whom seems to have a clue.

       The public is constrained to talk about the two parties as if they are different – and yet there seems to be nothing but idiots running. Oh, they’re smart enough to get elected, for sure – mostly by promising more money for everyone’s favorite program. And so, the seriousness of purpose required to get government spending into some semblance of order gone – we are reduced to presidential bon mots like “stinkburger” – astounding, utterly astounding. About the only thing I can hope for at this time is that the whole doesn’t go kaflooey before I die. Perhaps the utter absurdity of the rest of the world’s governments is the only thing that is keeping us afloat.

    The latest example is the capital flight from Russia – as anyone with a few Roubles puts the money into our stock markets and treasury notes in an attempt to stave off the rupture. The French are leaving France in droves because of their budget nonsense. The Greeks, Spanish and Mexicans likewise – Venezuelans with means are putting their money into America too. And it’s this foreign wealth that’s about the only thing that is floating our leaky boat.

     Rome went out in a whimper – we are doing the same. Sad. But, well, there’s not much I can do except marvel at it all.

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